African “Super Vegetables” and Asiatic Cotton – Are Indigenous “Lost Crops” Making A Comeback?

Another Take On The Term “Rewilding”?

In the previous post, we explored the concept of crop “rewilding” as it pertains to genetically resurrecting “wild” plant genes by reintroducing or by re-activating them in some modern crop plants.

One of the main justifications for doing so is to develop new crop plants to help feed and clothe the Earth’s growing human population, especially since we may be soon running out of food (see As Global Population Grows, Is The Earth Reaching The ‘End Of Plenty’?, for instance).

With all of this freshly in mind, I was interested to discover a couple of recent stories (Refs. 1 & 2 below) that are sort of about crop “rewilding”.

But, in these cases, genetic engineering is NOT involved.

Instead of the resurrection of plant genes, these stories are about the resurrection of so-called “lost crops”. That is, native or traditional crop plants that may have been displaced by modern crop plants, such as GMO crops.

African Super Veggies

The idea of using indigenous crop plants as a basis for African agricultural development is not new.

In the 1990s, the US National Research Council (NRC) in Washington DC convened a panel to examine the potential of Africa’s ‘lost crops’, including grains, fruits and vegetables. Chaired by renowned agricultural researcher Norman Borlaug, the panel concluded that native plants held tremendous potential for improving food security and nutritional intake across Africa, and should be a greater focus for researchers.” (From Ref. 1 below)

It may have taken twenty years, but “Scientists in Africa and elsewhere are now ramping up studies of indigenous vegetables to tap their health benefits and improve them through breeding experiments. The hope is that such efforts can make traditional varieties even more popular with farmers and consumers.” (from Ref. 1 below)

Asiatic Cotton Versus GMO Cotton

The authors concluded that under rain-fed conditions, the benefits traditionally associated with growing Bt American cotton are not necessarily realised. They recommend that a range of factors – including yields and profits but also irrigation and alternative cotton varieties – should be taken into account when planning strategies to improve cotton farming in India.” (from: Oxford University News)

References

1. Cernansky, R. (2015) “The rise of Africa’s super vegetables”. Nature, Vol. 522, pp. 146-148. (Full Text)

2. Romeu-Dalmau, C., et al. (2015) “Asiatic cotton can generate similar economic benefits to Bt cotton under rainfed conditions.” Nature Plants, Article Number 15072. (Abstract)

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